Emile Zola and the Paris Commune: the La Cloche Chronicles

Zola's La Cloche chronicles provide a clarification of his attitude toward the Paris Commune. While similar, on the whole, to the critical stance of most of his liberal republican contemporaries Zola's views on the uprising were tempered by a measure of compassion. In the days prior to the revolt he pleads for a transfer of the National Assembly to Paris, he calls for a sympathetic response to Parisians' "legitimate grievances," he accuses the deputies of mishandling the explosive situation in its early stages. However, Zola is primarily motivated by a sense of decency rather than by a bias in favor of the Commune. Following the suppression of the rebellion Zola is conspicuously silent about the government-sanctioned blood-bath. Only occasionally is there a note of condemnation of the hurried sentencing and mass deportation of the "communards." Not unlike most of his contemporaries Zola overlooked the socio-political aspects of the rebellion and attributed its outbreak mainly to the tensions of the Franco-Prussian War and to opportunistic politicians. (HHW)

Weinberg, Henry H
Volume 1979-80 Fall-Winter; 8(1-2): 79-86.